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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
sought—to enable prosecutors to try more juveniles as adults. The community is still troubled that there seems to be no answer to why the shooting happened, but it has come to a level of stasis in recognizing that they may never know for sure.
But by and large, the Westside shooting is no longer widely discussed. People who are less removed from the events say that it comes up less and less in conversation, and most people want to move on and stop talking about it. People are embarrassed that it is the shooting that put Westside on the national map and would prefer to put it behind them. There is not even much discussion about Mitchell and Andrew getting out. Although there were formal memorials every year, March 24, 2001, was the first year when there was none. Most people just do not want to talk about it any more. Even the civil suits, which have kept the event alive in some other communities, are infrequently discussed in Jonesboro, and have not brought a “second life” to the shooting. Civil suits were brought by the victims’ families against the shooters for wrongful death, against their parents for not controlling their children or being aware that a situation like this could happen, against Andrew Golden’s grandfather for failing to adequately secure his guns from the known risk of burglary and use by a burglar, and against the gun manufacturers for failing to take available precautions to ensure gun safety—namely for failing to install trigger locks.9
Reactions to the civil suits are mixed. In this region where guns and hunting are widespread and popular, there are many who oppose the suits against the gun manufacturers and claim they were not responsible for what the boys did. Some people support the suits out of sympathy and respect for the victims, but this view is generally in the minority. Attitudes toward the suits against the parents are also mixed, as are personal views about the responsibility of parents when their children do wrong. Many feel the parents should be held responsible, but others are sympathetic and can empathize as parents themselves that it is not always possible to control one’s children. By and large, however, the civil suits are ignored and community members avoid discussing them, much like the shooting in general.
Yet the attitude that the shooting should be put behind them makes life more difficult for some people in the community. A family life minister and counselor in Jonesboro compares the shooting to an earthquake, with many concentric circles of impact. Community members who were closest to the epicenter of the event—the victims’ families, those close to them, and people present during the incident—are those who are most deeply hurt and whose healing process will take the longest. Those who are farther removed from the epicenter heal more quickly and want to put the incident behind them faster. Not recognizing the differential rates of